Delete practical work, remove science funding, download ephemeral software

26th August 2011 at 01:00
Anything can become dated in a matter of moments - you just have to stick a date on it. So ensuring ICT systems are current is an exercise in futility

Listen up, purse-string holders, because I am about to give you a massive money-saving tip. All it requires is a complete lack of ethical behaviour on your part.

Midnight. Sneak into all of your science classrooms and replace the PIR burglar alarm sensors with webcams. Now monitor what goes on and, if you don't see any practical work happening, shove in another 10 weans. After all, there's no need to limit numbers to 20 if there are no experiments taking place, is there? Save pound;pound;pound;pound;pound;pound;pound;s on staffing!

"Wait a minute," you tell me in two weeks' time, "we did what you suggested, and found they were doing loads of practical!"

Don't worry. I've thought of that too. Put in place a policy that obsesses on getting valid appeal evidence. Make the kids do loads of past paper questions - that eats nicely into experiment time - and have at least one "mini-prelim" and two proper ones. If you still haven't killed off the amount of enjoyable hands-on work that makes the difference between producing scientists rather than people who can pass science exams, go for plan C.

Plan C is a two-pronged approach. Firstly, make sure that you introduce loads of initiatives that are paper-heavy, so that science departments have virtually nothing left for equipment and supplies once photocopying has taken place. Then make sure that all the computer software you buy for the rest of the school has numbers and dates on it. This will force you to top-slice other department budgets in order to "keep software up-to-date, so that it's what the kids meet in the real world when they leave". This has the huge advantage that you'll have to upgrade the hardware too, so that it can run all the new stuff. See, this is proof that geeks are really a bit stupid, because the splendid, free, friendly Ubuntu Linux operating system, with its masses of applications, is named after animals like Maverick Meerkats. While Office 2007 looks passe in 2011, who would feel the same urgency to upgrade from Karmic Koala to Lucid Lynx?

I realise I'm on dangerous ground here. What if someone read the above and misinterpreted it? They might make the suggestion that too much is spent on expensive ICT systems that perhaps don't have to be upgraded quite as often as they are. Luckily I haven't mentioned that by the time pupils have left school, a new system will be in place in the outside world anyway, so the free OpenOffice package is just as relevant as anything by Microsoft. And what if a science equipment supplier reads this and starts badging power supplies as, say, the "Multivolt 2012"? Shhhhh .

Gregor Steele likes Puppy Linux, which can all but run on an electric toaster. Scottish Schools Education Research Centre.

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